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Traditional Chinese Medicine

Having originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, acupuncture is a very well-established medical system that is practiced worldwide. Since its introduction to the United States in the early 1970s, it has seen exponential growth throughout the country. Best known in the U.S. for pain relief, acupuncture is recognized by the World Health Organization as an effective means to treat numerous conditions.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), health is seen as harmony between inner forces in the body. These forces, yin and yang, are central concepts in Eastern thought. Two opposing but complementary aspects, they symbolize the cyclic, ever-changing nature of the universe. In the body, yin and yang are manifest as blood and Qi, respectively. Qi is the body’s vital energy, the life force, “that which animates life.”

When yin and yang are unbalanced, the result is illness and pain. Disease occurs because the flow of Qi has been disrupted. This loss of equilibrium may be attributed to several factors. Before discussing these factors, however, it is important to clarify the TCM view of the body.

According to TCM, the human body is comprised of five organ networks: heart, spleen, kidney, lung and liver. The heart network maintains blood circulation as well as governs the mind and spirit. The spleen system is responsible for digestion as well as clarity of thought, while the kidney network controls growth and reproduction. The lung system allows for the inhalation of oxygen and transports Qi to the kidney network. The liver network dictates mood and directs the flow of Qi.

There also are five climates in the body that reflect the cycle of nature and its seasons. These climates are wind, heat, dampness, dryness and cold. They exist internally and the body exhibits corresponding conditions. A fever would be an occurrence of excess heat, for example. An excess or deficiency of Qi, and/or wind, heat, cold, dryness, or dampness in an organ network can cause Qi to become blocked and can manifest as illness or pain.

With this understanding the TCM model of the body, we can better understand the healing process. As mentioned above, pain or illness occurs when the flow of Qi is blocked. Acupuncture – inserting very thin needles into meridians, or key energy channels along the body that correspond to specific organ networks – enables the flow of Qi. The needles release the blocked Qi, activating its circulation, restoring yin-yang balance and eliminating the source of the problem.

Importantly, traditional Chinese medicine not only is an effective treatment for a diverse range of conditions, it also serves as an excellent way to prevent illness and maintain health and wellness.

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Kurt P. Redmond, L.Ac.

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